Here’s one I made earlier.

My hand injury is still recovering so the beekeeping sous chef has been responsible for conjuring up outstanding flapjacks for friends who have dropped in for tea since we could meeting the garden.  Even though most of us have done very little for months, it is amazing how much talking is still needed to bring each other up-to-date.   And how good to hear others laughing.

This is our Easter Spring cake: a cross between a Christmas cum Simnel recipe that I had started at least two months before the injury. Although there are lots of ingredients, it actually takes longer to weigh out than mix.

The dried fruit had been soaking in brandy for a month and the strained residue was later injected into the finished cake (syringe, needle and all).

The sous chef’s home-produced honey replaced the usual sugar, with a little extra flour to offset its 17% water content.  This made a lighter and more flavoursome cake.

To stop the cake drying out, I gave up on the traditional Simnel top layer of marzipan plus 11 apostle balls.  Instead, and completely optional, the cake was covered top-to-toe with more marzipan.  The sous chef made and lovingly applied the final finishing touches of royal icing plus festive birds and bees. (He has to get all the praise as he posts these pieces for me!).  The cake is so unctuous and moist that it nearly needs serving with a spoon.


4oz currants

4oz sultanas

8oz raisins

Enough brandy to cover the dried fruit.

8oz butter

8oz honey


16oz self-raising flour

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons mixed spice

Half teaspoon salt

2oz candied peel, chopped.

250g glace cherries.

2oz soft dried apricots, chopped.

2oz dried apple flakes, chopped (optional).

2oz dried dates, stoned and chopped.

Zest and juice of 1 orange.

Zest and juice of 1 lemon.

3oz whole almonds chopped

3oz Brazil nuts, chopped.

500g pack marzipan.


Soak the currants, raisins and sultanas in brandy – ideally for a month but a week would do.

Drain and set aside the strained brandy.

Cream   the butter and honey until light and fluffy.

Whisk in each egg with a teaspoonful of flour.

Fold in the flour and the remaining cake ingredients.

Fill a cake tin halfway and top with a layer of marzipan, pressed out to fit the tin.  Fill the tin on top of the marzipan.

Cook Gas 1, 140C for 2 hours 15 minutes, reduce heat for a further 45 minutes.  Internal cake temperature should reach at least 96C.

This quantity was bigger than my cake tin.  I put the extra into a loaf tin and cooked at the same time on the oven second shelf for 2 hours 15 minutes.

Optional: once cake has cooled and been removed from tin, inject with strained brandy over a week.  Brush with warmed apricot jam and cover with marzipan (around 750g) and allow to dry for a few days.  Cover with royal icing and allow to dry.  Decorate with whatever grabs your imagination.

Please don’t forget the live on-line bake-in on Monday 12 April at 1030.


Super supper soup.

It takes more than an ordinary bowl for the Christmas cake mix here and inspired my very first Baking Blind video by brother Martin

In the past, I’ve used a pristine washing-up bowl but even this isn’t big enough for, by my calculations, nearly 10 kilos (20 lb) of ingredients.  Luckily, my Covid home clear-out unearthed an even bigger food-quality plastic box.  The dried fruit had been soaking in brandy for months;  two hours chopping the nuts gave me cramp in both hands; I layered the butter/sugar/eggs/flour mix with the other ingredients in the box, folded them all together and filled all the cake tins and moulds. It was a juggling act to cook them in two ovens, turning and changing their positions over several hours.  Thankfully, there was enough to have a “test cake” shared with guinea pig friends, Sue and Rod.  Verdict: perfectly moist but I’ll still be injecting brandy for the next week.

Other cooking was rather on the back burner in the midst of these culinary challenges but I did manage a new B&B soup:

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 sticks celery, peeled and chopped

250g smoked back bacon, de-rinded and chopped

1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped

3 vegetable stock cubes

Salt and pepper


Sauté the onion, carrots, celery and bacon.

Add the butternut squash to the pan plus the stock cubes.

Cover the ingredients with water and simmer until the squash has softened.

Whizz to a smooth soup in a blender.

Season to taste.


Even Martin, staying overnight and no fan of butternut squash, declared the result to be delicious – served  with home-made soda bread to make that super supper.





Christmas cake decoration.

Turning delicious fruit cakes in to fabulous gifts.

Finished cakes

Finished cakes

Imperial Metric Ingredient
Two-thirds jar   Apricot jam
    Selection of dried fruit and nuts
8 ounces 225 grams Marzipan
    Icing sugar for dusting
16 ounces 550 grams Icing sugar
3   Egg whites
1 teaspoon   Glycerine
    Cake decorations (optional)
    Edible glitter

Place about half the jar of apricot jam in a heatproof bowl with a splash of water.

Heat on half heat in the microwave (or a pan) until quite warm but not hot.

Use a blender to reduce the jam mix to a fine slurry.

With a pastry brush, paint the tops of the cakes and press the fruit and nuts on top.  Carefully brush again with the jam mix to give a glaze and stick the decoration.  Sprinkle with glitter dust if using.

For cakes to be iced, roll out the marzipan using a little icing sugar to dust the surface and rolling pin.  Measure the diameter of the cake and cut a circle to fit.  If icing the sides too, measure the circumference and height of the cake and cut out a rectangle of marzipan to fit.

Ideally, allow the glaze to dry on the fruit decoration for 24 hours before handling again and leave the marzipanned cakes for 24 hours before icing.

To make Royal icing, place the egg whites in a very clean bowl and stir in the sifted icing sugar.

Once mixed, add the glycerine and whisk at high speed for 10 minutes until it becomes very stiff and meringue-like.

Place spoonfuls on the cakes and spread with a palette knife that has been heated in a jug of hot water.

Add cake decorations and glitter if using.

Allow to dry before handling again.

My tips:

I used the leftover brandy/fruit juice liquid instead of water to thin the jam.

If you are making small cakes, just icing the top is probably enough additional sugar.

For cutting the marzipan neatly, you may have a pastry or cookie cutter the right size.

I wrapped a piece of string around the cake to measure the circumference – the long side of the rectangle for covering the sides.

Sifting the icing sugar is essential – it is virtually impossible to beat out any lumps afterwards.

It is critical not to add too much glycerine – I did one year and the icing ran off the cake like droopy knickers!

Wrap the cakes in greaseproof or parchment paper and tie with a ribbon.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

Cakes with icing and pewter decorations

Cakes with icing and pewter decorations

Christmas cake fruit decoration

Christmas cake fruit decoration